Gareth Southgate was high in praise of his England players after they beat Scotland 3-1, and insisted Jude Bellingham “doesn’t have a point to prove” to anyone.
Bellingham was terrific on Tuesday night after a disappointing showing against Ukraine on Saturday.
Following the statement performance at Hampden Park, Southgate said his team were “excellent” before individually praising Bellingham.
“Really pleased,” Southgate told Channel 4. “I thought we were excellent in all phases of the game right from the start.
“We wanted to control the game by using the ball well and I thought we did that well. Today the players one to 11, and the subs, it was one of those days when they all did well.
“At the weekend Ukraine sat really deep and we found it hard to create chances but today we had runners through.”
On Bellingham, the England manager said: “He doesn’t have a point to prove to us, we know he is a really good player.
“Saturday was not his best game but we weren’t at the level we wanted to be and we knew he has a fantastic personality to come back from that.
“His performances have been outstanding and one performance isn’t going to change that.
“As an attacking eight, or where he played tonight, he looks to get into the box.
“Tonight his athleticism to press was so important. Scotland’s system is difficult to play against so we slightly changed our system and he did that well.”
And on Phil Foden, who scored the Three Lions’ opening goal, Southgate said: “I’m pleased for him. I’ve had a lot of questions about him [from the media].
“He scored a goal and I thought his performance was really good. He did a really good job for us without the ball too and that’s often overlooked. To press well and counter-press was exceptional.”
Bellingham noted that he was not his best against Ukraine but enjoyed having the “freedom” of Hampden Park in the 116th edition of the world’s oldest international fixture.
“I wasn’t happy with how I played against Ukraine, it wasn’t anywhere near my best and the motivation is always to get back to your best,” the Real Madrid midfielder said. “I got somewhere close tonight.
“It’s just a freedom role really. I get given the freedom by the amazing teammates and manager that I have [at Real Madrid].
“I know it depends on the system we play, and we’ve got so many amazing players to accommodate, and so the team comes first always. I really enjoyed playing in that [same] position today.
“A lot of the lads felt like they didn’t perform to their level [against Ukraine]. That’s a great attitude to have, and still be able to take the positives into the next game.
“Having these big wins helps build camaraderie in the group.”
Foden was asked about Bellingham, saying the 20-year-old is “a massive talent”.
He said: “He’s so mature for his age, an unreal talent, a massive talent and important for us with the way we play.
“We need Jude a lot and it’s a pleasure to play with him and we link up really well.”
Meanwhile, Scotland manager Steve Clarke said his side have proven in the past that they can bounce back from a disappointing result.
“First half, we didn’t really get started, couldn’t get hold of the ball,” Clarke noted.
“Second half, we showed a better intensity, and when it goes 2-1 we had the chance to be in the game, but England scored another one and it was always going to be difficult to get back in.
“England started like the top side they are. We’re not there, but we’re trying to develop, trying to get better. We’ve always come back stronger from adversity, and let’s hope that’s the case [here].
“Andy [Robertson] made a mistake for the second goal, that happens in football. We’re capable of scoring goals against top teams, and hopefully we take that to Spain next month.
“When you play against a side as good as England, you have to get everything 100% correct. We didn’t do that tonight, and that’s why we lost the game.
“The camp’s been a success, because we’ve got a perfect record in the qualifying group. We’re in a good place.”